Many Red Deerians expressed concern over crime during a town hall meeting on safe drug consumption sites.
The government-appointed committee that is looking into the socio-economic impacts of the sites hosted a public engagement session in Red Deer on Tuesday evening.
Shaune Fandrey, who owns a downtown business, was one of many to speak at the event. She said some customers are “uncomfortable” going to her office and staff members’ vehicles are broken into regularly.
“It’s frustrating for me as a business owner to hear people say that the problem with crime has always been the same. We’ve been there 20 years. It’s not the same,” said Fandrey.
Fandrey said she’s also frustrated hearing people say safe consumption sites save lives, “because this isn’t living.”
“To keep people alive just to perpetuate misery without actually providing them a service makes no sense to me. I’d like to see all the money going into these Band-Aid solutions … (instead) go in mental health, safe housing and detox for people who really need it.”
Shawn Pickett, a board member of Turning Point, the agency that operates the safe consumption site, said Red Deer had the highest overdose death rate per capita in Alberta before the facility opened.
Safe consumption sites save lives “and that’s one of the major things that needs to be looked at moving forward,” said Pickett.
“Red Deer’s had a huge crime rate for a long time. I’ve had two dirt bikes stolen, a car stolen, cash stolen, a passport stolen. My girlfriend was robbed at knifepoint. And all this was long before the OPS ever opened up.
“If supervised consumption services are shut down with the anticipation that crime is going to go away, I think we’re going to be disappointed.”
Pickett said crime happens everywhere, not just around the site.
“The problem with crime, the problem with homelessness is massive. It’s spread across the city, it’s spread across the province. It’s in Lethbridge, it’s in Ontario, it’s all over the place,” he said.
Glen Adkins, who lives in north Red Deer, said he’s seen a noticeable increase in crime over the past couple of years.
“Every week I’m downtown and I see a big change with what’s going on down there. I feel sorry for the business owners,” he said.
Adkins said he’s against having a safe consumption site in Red Deer.
“They’re just keeping these people alive. They need to get them into rehab long term … because it’s just not working.”
The supervised consumption services review committee has held town hall events in Lethbridge and Medicine Hat. Events are also planned for Grande Prairie, Edmonton and Calgary.
Committee chair Rod Knecht said prior to the event in Red Deer that committee members met with several stakeholders, “from politicians to users.”
He said “in some areas, the community is very divided. In other areas, you see a lot of commonalities.
“It’s a very emotional issue for a lot of people, and with emotion, comes polarizations sometimes.”
An online survey can be filled out at www.alberta.ca/supervised-consumption-services-review.aspx.